Petty excited about Rolex 24, Daytona Prototypes

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 9, 2003) -- Kyle Petty is gearing up for not only the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup season, but also for his third-straight appearance in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The NASCAR veteran spent last weekend at Daytona...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 9, 2003) -- Kyle Petty is gearing up for not only the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup season, but also for his third-straight appearance in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The NASCAR veteran spent last weekend at Daytona International Speedway behind the wheel of the Orbit Racing Porsche GT3 R.

While Petty partnered with NASCAR teammate John Andretti for a Rolex Series GT win at Watkins Glen in 2001, his best finish in the famous twice-round-the-clock race is fourth in GT at the 2001 event. As he prepares for the 41st Rolex 24 At Daytona, Petty is excited about the upcoming race, as well as the racing debut of the Daytona Prototypes.

ROLEX SERIES BASICS
Team: Orbit Racing
Car: #43 Porsche GT3 R
Class: GT
Co-Drivers: Leo Hindery, Peter Barron, Marc Lieb
Best Rolex 24 Finish: 4th GT (7th overall)
Best Series Finish: 1st GT

IN HIS WORDS...

What makes you want to drive this race?
We came down here the first year, and I drove with Leo (Hindery) and Peter (Baron) with Orbit Racing. It was just so relaxing. And it was just fun to drive a race car. To be at Daytona, and just have fun at Daytona was something. It's been a long time since I've had that. I was about 18 or 19 since I had experienced Daytona like that.

I came down here and I sat at the drivers meeting and there was James Weaver and Elliott Forbes-Robinsons and some of those guys. You look around and these are some of the greatest race car drivers in the world. And here I am sitting here - some schmuck that drives a stock car going to go out and run through the infield of Daytona with some of these guys. It was just a different level of game. A different game.

We came down here that year, and I think we ran seventh or eighth overall. We had fun. The Corvettes won that year. It was just a fun year. There was a lot of hype and a lot of things going on. The Earnhardts were here. There was just a lot of excitement to the race. It rained the whole time. That was the downer to the whole deal. And I had never driven in the rain before. It was just fun.

Last year, it got down to November and December and Leo hadn't called me. I was like 'Leo, are you going to let me drive with you again this year?' 'Oh yeah, come on back son.' I came back again. And this year they invited me back again. I just have a great time doing it.

Do you remember the battle between you and Darren Law for fourth place in GT on the final lap of the race in 2001?
That's when the Corvettes were posing for the picture (at the finish line). I guess I wasn't paying that much attention to the picture. I was too worried about racing Darren and trying to beat him back to the line. He got caught in traffic and I didn't, and I ended up beating him.

But man he was fast. He ran me down. I was running seventh or eighth, and they said 'he's catching you a second a lap.' And I told them I couldn't run any faster than I was running. As soon as he caught me, I started following him and learned a lot from him. I learned a lot about how he was driving and what he was doing. And then he just got caught in traffic and I beat him. We were excited that day. I'm still excited about it.

What about your win with John Andretti at Watkins Glen in the 2001 Bully Vineyards 250?
Those two guys that we were racing with there were incredibly fast. That is what John and I talked about when it was over with. It shows you how deep the talent is in Grand American.

I'm an OK road racer, and John's a really good road racer. But those guys were just beating our pants. They were beating us to death. And he got into the back of John, and that was just racing. That's part of it.

But we ended up winning the thing, and that was pretty exciting. I had won a Winston Cup race up there, but it was so much fun to drive that Porsche and run through the chicane at the end of the backstretch.

I hate that we didn't run the boot. I've been running up there for the last 10 or 12 years, and I still haven't run a race on the boot. I don't feel like I've run Watkins Glen until I get to run a race through the boot.

What are you thoughts on the new Daytona Prototypes?
I was excited about it. I was talking to Jim France about it early on. We tried really, really hard to put together a program so that we could come and do a prototype deal and run it in three or four races. Because I think there are three or four races during the course of the year, like Daytona, the July race and Watkins Glen, that we could run with you.

I went by FABCAR in Indianapolis when we were testing in Indianapolis last June or July. I saw the car they were building. And then we do some work with Multimatic as an engineering firm. And I've been to Canada four or five times to follow the progress of the Multimatic prototype.

It's an exciting thing. When you talk about road racing in America and Grand American as a series, to have these cars built in Indianapolis or Canada and have these cars come out of North America and race here. And to have power plants in them like Yates engines put in them. I said that is pretty cool. That says something about motorsports in general in the United States. That you take one branch over here, and then you borrow from another series over here, and you bring drivers, you bring engine builders, you bring mechanics and put a lot of things together.

And I look at this series and class of cars as being able to bring a multitude of talented drivers and different mechanics and engine builders all together in one arena. It's going to start slow, like anything else, but hopefully it will become the premier where you come down here and you've got stock car drivers, Indy car drivers and those guys driving these prototypes. You've got engine builders like Porsche and Robert Yates Racing and guys like that competing against each other on the same playing field. That's something that can't be done anywhere else.

What are some differences between driving your stock car and the Porsche?
Stock cars are just so heavy. And obviously they don't run through the infield. The cars are just so heavy, though. The power to weight ratio is just so much different than what the Porsche is. The Grand American cars are such agile cars. Almost in every class to a tee. They are fun to drive.

From a drivers perspective, I don't think I've ever sat in anything that wasn't fun to drive. But these things are a thrill to drive. I think there's a difference. When you get in them, its like being a kid again. The difference between a stock car is a stock car is like driving your family car. You're out there and you're hammering around in your family car - your family station wagon or family four door. Then all of sudden your father tosses you the keys to his sports car and says go take it around the block. It's totally different. It's still got four wheels, still got a steering wheel and still got an engine, but it's a totally different feel.

And I think that's it. When you feel the rush and the thrill that you get from driving.

What do you think about your new Petty Racing teammate Christian Fittipaldi racing in one of the Daytona Prototypes?
He had already pretty much talked to those guys before we really started talking to him about doing some stuff. He was pretty excited about that, and he should be. To come to Daytona with a prototype this year and win a race with a prototype car the first year would be a phenomenal feat.

I think a lot of cars are going to have a shot at winning the race overall this year. I think some of the GT cars are going to have a shot. And I think that is the exciting part about the whole Grand American series is that no matter where you are or what class you are in, you've got a shot at winning the 24 hours at Daytona, which would be phenomenal.

We're excited about Christian coming and making the switch from open-wheel cars to closed-wheel cars. This just gets him a little bit closer and a little bit faster, because he's going to be in a closed-wheel car down here.

Tickets are currently on sale for the 41st Rolex 24 At Daytona and may be purchased by calling the Speedway ticket office at 386-253-RACE or online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

The Rolex 24 At Daytona will be broadcast LIVE on SPEED Channel, with coverage beginning on Saturday, Feb. 1, 12:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. ET and picking back up on Sunday, Feb. 2, 6 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. ET.

Additional information about the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Rolex Sports Car Series is available online at www.grandamerican.com.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers John Andretti , Kyle Petty , James Weaver , Christian Fittipaldi , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Leo Hindery , Darren Law , Marc Lieb , Robert Yates
Teams Yates Racing